News from the Elder Justice CoalitionOlder Americans Month Celebrates “Communities of Strength” Emerging from Difficult Year
May is Older Americans Month and the 2021 theme, “Communities of Strength,” aims to recognize and honor the resilience of older Americans across the country and the Aging Network during the past year. This May, the White House joins the Administration for Community Living (ACL), countless advocates, public officials, and other stakeholders to highlight stories of strength the vital contributions of older Americans that have inspired and supported others during this difficult year. In his recent proclamation marking this important month, President Biden acknowledged the importance of bolstering elder justice programs and highlighted that the American Rescue Plan included significant resources not only for Older Americans Act services, but also that the plan, “enhances the Elder Justice Act and ensures Adult Protective Services can be used to protect the safety of all adults as they age.” Advocates can find additional resources and information about the 2021 Older Americans Month on ACL’s OAM website.
House Judiciary Committee Advances Elder Abuse Protection Act
This week, the House Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote the bipartisan Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021, H.R. 2922, which was introduced last month by Representatives Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and Victoria Spartz (R-IN). If enacted, the bill would make the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI) a permanent office within the Department of Justice (DOJ) Criminal Division; require Elder Justice Coordinators at DOJ to evaluate, identify, and disseminate best practices; mandate that the EJI maintain and publish information to project older adults from fraud and abuse; and require the DOJ to publish EJI resources in English and Spanish. In a statement of support, Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that the bill was especially critical now because, “The pandemic has only exacerbated [elder abuse] problems. For nearly a year, tens of thousands of seniors have lived in preventative isolation, making it more difficult for families and communities to address the emotional toll of elder abuse.” The Elder Justice Coalition also endorsed the bill. In a recent statement, EJC National Coordinator Bob Blancato said, “We see this as needed legislation to further strengthen federal resources to combat the national problem of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. We applaud the language in the bill to make the Elder Justice Initiative a permanent office in the Department of Justice to provide key direction for the 94 elder justice coordinators around the nation.”
Tribute to Dr. Carmel Dyer
The EJC mourns the loss of Dr. Carmel Dyer, geriatrician and executive director of the Consortium on Aging at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). “Carmel Dyer was a legend in the field of elder abuse prevention. Her advice and counsel were sought by many. She contributed a great deal to the work of the Elder Justice Coalition with her insights and assessments of various legislative proposals we were involved with. She was strong—passionate—dedicated and revered,” said Bob Blancato, National Coordinator for the Elder Justice Coalition.
Highlighting the Dangers of Self Neglect Among Older Adults
Next Avenue’s Judy Stringer and the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging recently featured an article spotlighting the prevalence and danger of self-neglect among seniors. Challenging misconceptions that most elder abuse is inflicted by an outside abuser, the piece flags that a 2020 report by the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System found that self-neglect constituted 51 percent of all abuse allegations reported to Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies nationwide in 2019. Prolonged social isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic has likely exacerbated the problem of self-neglect among older adults. The National Adult Protective Services Association locator can help those who suspect that a loved one or neighbor is practicing in self-neglect find local services.
Federal Resources Available for Financial Caregivers
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released resources for financial caregivers—people who manage money for a loved one who may need help because of health problems or memory issues. These resources include tools for those who are considering identifying a financial caregiver; planning for Social Security Advance Designation; and preparing for diminished capacity and/or illness. The CFPB also released a resource aimed at those who are planning to become a financial caregiver outlining how to manage someone else’s money and spot financial exploitation and scams.